Thursday, September 17, 2020

Book Review: Above the Clouds: How I Carved My Own Path to the Top of the World by Kilian Jornet

 Disclaimer: I received a prerelease copy of Above the Clouds by Kilian Jornet from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

"I accept that, inwardly, running is everything."~Kilian Jornet, Above the Clouds

I've been intrigued by Kilian Jornet for a while. I've heard that he's arrogant, but man, is he an incredible athlete. Last spring, while running a 10 miler on my treadmill, I watched a video of the 2010 Western States 100 miler in which he competed against Anton Krupicka and Geoff Roes, among other famed ultrarunners. In contrast to the casual, rugged appearance of these guys, Jornet looked like a sprite in his white running kit. I marveled at his fleet footedness, but even more so at the audacity of wearing white to a trail race. Jornet didn't win that year, but he went back and came in first in 2011. The video and my thoughts kept me occupied for that treadmill run. I wanted to learn more about this guy. 

Jornet grew up in the Pyrenees mountains of Spain and attended a mountain skiing school. He took up running in the summer to stay in shape for 'skimo'. His training and discipline made him uniquely prepared for ultramarathoning. He dominates in moutain running and has crested Mt Everest twice. There are the doubters, but after reading this book, there's no doubt in my mind that Jornet is one of the best athletes of our time. This guy knows how to cross train!

 In Above the Clouds, Jornet shares his story. 

This was the perfect time for me to pick up Jornet's book. With so much heaviness in the world and in the news, it was nice to read about nature and adventure. In Above the Clouds, he shares vivid descriptions of his climbs and challenges. The narrative is sparse, yet descriptive and at times, I felt as if I was with him on the mountains. He is a skilled, gifted, and intelligent athlete. Jornet is straightforward about his victories and his abilities. He addresses the perception of his arrogance several times in the narrative and I came away thinking that it isn't so much arrogance that he possesses, but a singleminded drive to be the best at what he does. Jornet shares that he doesn't keep his race trophies and awards, but instead gives them away to people who he thinks would enjoy them. Or sometimes he uses them to scrape the wax off his skis.

He asks the question: 

"Is it fear of being stuck in the past that drives me, or vanity. Maybe what makes me feel so vain is just my discomfort with accepting recognition....One thing I know is that I've had a great time...And the only point of it is to make me think about how to go further." ~Kilian Jornet

Jornet has won just about every race he's entered. He currently holds the FKT for scaling Mr Everest without a guide or oxygen. He shares that story, among many other climbs, in Above the Clouds. This was an amazing feat, as he becomes disoriented and finds himself off the path he had taken up the mountains. Throughout the book, shares stories of pushing through injury and pain. 

"You accept the pain because you know that through the pain you will reach another level." ~Killian Jornet

You've scaled Mt Everest, achieving the fastest known time. So what is next for Kilian Jornet? A very private person, he's not going to Disney World. In the epilogue, he shares that he and his wife Emelie, an elite mountaineer and runner herself, made a list of all the peaks, routes, and races they want to tackle. They agreed it may take a lifetime. It was nice to get a peek inside of Jornet's head. I look forward to reading about more of his adventures.  


 "I want to be an 80 year old boy...Until, when I'm truly old, my body stops working for good." ~Kilian Jornet, Above the Clouds

Kilian Jornet's new book Above the Clouds is a feast for runners and adventurers! My review via @oldrunningmom @kilianj @HarperNonFic @NetGalley #running #runchat 

Have you read any of Kilian Jornet's books? He has also written Run or Die. I have not read it, but it is now on my TBR list! Who do you think is one of the best athletes? By the way, if you want to follow Jornet's adventures, his Instagram is amazing! 

I'm linking up with Fridays with Fairytales and Fitness.


  1. I need to read that book! Thank you so much, Wendy, for this review. This guy is absolutely fascinating. It's a good thing his wife is an elite mountaineer and trail runner herself. It must be fun to have a list of things you want to tackle in the future as a couple.
    And a big yes to wanting to be "an 80-year-old boy".
    Now I'm off to order it!

  2. This does sound good - I do love a mountain narrative. I can't find it on my NetGalley so it must have come and gone but I will keep an eye out for it.

  3. I've never even heard of him. He sounds interesting, although I personally cringe at athletes & running through the pain. I suppose it depends on what he really means by pain.

    I've always been fascinated by people who climb "real" mountains, even though I have no desire to do so!

    1. I can't believe you've never heard of him! I think you need to consider that pain to some people doesn't mean injury. It might just mean a hard effort.

  4. I don't think I had heard of him previously. But wow he's sure accomplished a lot. I am always so in awe of people who can do these amazing things with their bodies. Sounds like a great uplifting read

    1. I've always loved reading about other peoples' adventures, doing things I would never dream of doing! It was fun 'being on the mountain' with him.

  5. I have not heard of him but he sounds like a great adventurer! It is nice that he can share this passion with his wife!

    1. I think you'd have to have a partner who shares that kind of passion!